Aug
17
2011
0

Farewell…for now…

Hello All,

I think this will be my last post on the blog…at least for now.  I am safely back in the USA.  And while it is definitely good to be home and to see family and friends, it was also hard to leave my new family in Rwanda.  They asked me to greet you all!  :)

Please continue to pray for them – for the church, the schools, and all the people.  Pray that God would protect them and meet their needs…which are many!  But especially pray that they would continue to praise God in all they do – that that would be the center of who they are – and that the love they have will pour out and make a difference in their community and throughout Rwanda.

In Jesus’ name – Amen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
11
2011
0

Ode to Rwanda

While I don’t think this will be my last post, it may be the last one I write in Rwanda.  I depart for home tomorrow (though I won’t arrive until the next day).  It has been a great experience for sure…and Rwanda is a wonderful country!  

Though I don’t write much poetry, I felt inspired one afternoon and came up with something.  I’m not sure it is in its final draft, but I thought I would share it with you anyway:

R  Red sunsets each night as your mamas make chips over outdoor fires

W  Winding roads through the countless fields that quilt your 1,000 hills

A  Arms outstretched as you dance and praise your faithful God

N  Noises of children and laughter brighten your darkest of nights

D  Dresses of bright cloth carry your wares above and your little ones behind

A  Always remember; never forget.  Rwanda – Africa’s lesson to the world

Blessings,

Jen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
09
2011
0

Project Updates

 

The almost completed wall!Here is the almost completed wall!  And the bricks to finish it are already made and just need to dry.  :)  In fact, I believe they have already started making bricks for the next side of the wall.

 

P8090685

Here is a view of most of the garden.  It may not look like much, but you should have seen it before – full of trash, etc!  Team, you’ll see that there is some trash there now…and some parts of the wall are coming down…  However, Kezia has really been committed to work on the garden.  They don’t really weed or clean up the garden much, but Kezia is really caring for each individual plant.  Because it is the dry season and the sun is pretty intense, it is a difficult time to get things to grow. Quite a number of the seeds we originally planted didn’t make it.  However, we are making much use of the hose and watering cans.  And you will see in the next photos some of the plants which are doing well.

 

P8090687The cabbage has been the most successful crop we planted.  You can see Kezia put some dried grasses down – I think that is probably to try to hold in some of the moisture.

 

P8090688Here is some spinach that will be ready to be eaten soon!

 

P8090691Tomato plants – remember, everything was started from seeds.

 

P8090692Collard greens

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
06
2011
0

Stories of the Genocide

Today I visited the Ntarama Genocide Memorial which is maybe 45 minutes south of Kigali outside of the town of Nyamata.  I had heard about this site and wanted to visit it…and I am very glad I did.  We had gone to the big genocide memorial in Kigali (Gisozi) with the team back in June.  And while that was a good experience and very informative (and even has some remains of victims and mass graves containing 250,000 of those who were killed), for me the experience at Ntarama was much more powerful!

The memorial site was a small Catholic church where 5,000 people were killed in just 2 days! There are no signs explaining things.  It is small and simple.  But the stories of the guide and the sites you see tell it all.

Ntarama is in the Bugesera district.  According to our guide, starting in 1959, this is where many Tutsis were sent to live because it was a forest filled with wild animals and tsetse flies…and it was thought that many would die.  So, there were many Tutsis concentrated here.

And while there had been periods of killings for many years prior to 1994, no people had ever been killed inside a church.  Churches were considered to be safe places.  But some would say that they were already preparing for the mass genocide of 1994.  Again according to our guide, in 1992 they started taking Hutu boys to train them how to fight…but not to be soldiers…  At the end of the training, they were given axes.

On April 9, 1994 the Hutu militia came to the area of Ntarama.  The people there were able to resist for a handful of days.  People fled to the church for safety.  So the militia sought more help/force.  On April 15, with the help of bombs/grenades, the militia broke into the church..and killed all 5,000 people gathered there over the next 2 days.

Today, when you go inside the church, you see shelves filled with skulls and other bones of victimes…piles of the clothing they had been wearing…and some of the supplies they had brought with them into the church.  You also see some of the tools/weapons the perpetrators used.  There are a small number of coffins…but these are only the remains of victims found in the immediate area just this year.  In fact, when we went to the sacristy (in addition to seeing some Bibles, books, and student notebooks), we saw a bag holding the remains of a woman who was discovered just yesterday in the garden of a nearby church.

There are 2 other buildings on the site.  One is the home where 2 people lived which was destroyed in those 2 days.  The other is a building that was used for Sunday school…and was the site where absolutely horrific means were used to torture and kill women and children. While there is very little that is in that building, what is there gives a picture that is too gruesome to write about.  

And what made it all the more difficult to see was the fact that our driver shared his story with us on the way there…and what happened to members of his family were some of the things we heard about at the memorial.  Our driver was 15 years old at the time of the genocide, and he survived by hiding out in the sugar cane fields for a month.  All he ate for that entire month was sugar cane.  And when the killers came looking for the people hiding there with dogs, he would jump into the river to hide.  He was so sick and injured that when he was found by Kagame’s troops, he was taken immediately to the hospital.

And then tonight, the young gatekeeper at the guesthouse whose English is not very good at all, tried his best to share with me his story.  He was only 5 years old at the time of the genocide. He lost both of his parents.  One sister who was 9 was the only other member of his family who survived.  She lives a few hours north of here.  He is alone in Kigali living in a place with 2 small rooms and no electricity.  He invited me to visit his home tonight.  And yet he has hope.

With all this, it is amazing to see how well this country is doing.  There are definitely still issues, and yet there is progress being made – not just in terms of the country’s development, but even in terms of how people are healing and learning to forgive!

(*Note: While you are not allowed to take pictures inside of the buildings on the memorial site, I did take some photos outside that I wanted to share.  The computer is not cooperating with me…perhaps it is just as well.)

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
05
2011
0

Schools

 

The McBride women and Headmaster Theophile in front of the EFCR Primary School in Remera

The McBride women and Headmaster Theophile in front of the EFCR Primary School in Remera

 

Remera school children

Remera school children

 

Morning exercises

Morning exercises

 

Nursery students having their tea and bread

Nursery students having their tea and bread

 

P1 (like first grade) students hard at work

P1 (like first grade) students hard at work

 

Some of the sweet P3 boys

Some of the sweet P3 boys

 

Eager P3 students

Eager P3 students

Part of a P3 English test

Part of a P3 English test

 

 

The shool staff

The shool staff

 

Students in the "multi-purpose room" at Butaka

Students in the "multi-purpose room" at Butaka

 

One of the Butaka choirs

One of the Butaka choirs

 

Students dancing for us at Butaka

Students dancing for us at Butaka

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Aug
04
2011
0

Worshipping in Rwanda

Pastor Esron's church in Remera

Pastor Esron's church in Remera

Pastor Esron & Rick Hendel inside the church

Pastor Esron & Rick Hendel inside the church

The women's service I went to with Kezia (and the cool lady who is the leader of the women in this area)

The women's service I went to with Kezia (and the cool lady who is the leader of the women in this area)

One of the choirs at the women's service

One of the choirs at the women's service

The church Terrence attends up at Butaka

The church Terrence attends up at Butaka

A district service up north in Byumba (sorry it's blurry, but notice the fresh flowers hanging as decoration)

A district service up north in Byumba (sorry it's blurry, but notice the fresh flowers hanging as decoration)

A Solace Ministries group counseling service

A Solace Ministries group counseling service

A small chapel on the grounds of a convent where Jean Gakwandi (founder & director of Solace) and I stopped for lunch on the way back from Butare in the south

A small chapel on the grounds of a convent where Jean Gakwandi (founder & director of Solace) and I stopped for lunch on the way back from Butare in the south

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
26
2011
1

A Day in the Life of “Rwanda Jen”

My friend, Theophile, has told me he has 3 wishes for me:

 1) That I get fat…so when I go back, everyone will know I was well taken care of in Rwanda.                                                                                                          2) That I get married (you are something of a second class citizen here if you are single after a certain age).                                                                              3) That I become “Rwandese.”

I told him “no” to the first wish (that I didn’t think it would help me with wish #2); “ok” to the second; and “maybe” to the third.  :)

So…today I will write about my life as a “temporary Rwandese.”

6:00am – Wake up.  Spend some time doing a devotional/in God’s Word and praying.  Perhaps shower/perhaps not  :)   Eat breakfast – usually peanut butter (not made in Rwanda) on bread with a couple small Rwandan sweet bananas 

7:30am – Walk down to the primary school (just a short walk…not more than 5 minutes and all downhill).  Participate in morning exercises/warm-up  (very cute with all the kids).  Help out in one of the classrooms (Nursery 1, Nursery 2, P1, P2, or P3) 

10:00isham – “Recess”…which usually involves about 6 kids trying to hold my hands at the same time!  :)  Then back into a class…for math, Kinyarwanda, English, French, etc (& a little science, social studies, etc)

Noon – School is done…and I am tired!  Lunch (usually on my own back at the guesthouse…which is a short walk, but all uphill).  Then head to Solace…usually walk 15 minutes to the “taxi” (bus) stop…though have taken a “moto” (motorcycle taxi) a couple times (they are everywhere and very convenient, but not as cheap…and a little scary)

2:00pm – Help out around Solace (responding to e-mails regarding rooms at the guesthouse, editting a “Guesthouse Guidelines” sheet to put in each room, interviewing various ministry heads so I can use the information in a newsletter and brochure, etc…even helped clean rooms one day)

5:00pm – Head back to the German Guesthouse (harder to find a spot in the bus – as it is, they cram about 19 people in a van!  But, surprisingly not smelly). Dinner is sometimes out at a restaurant or otherwise prepared by the guesthouse – always very good.  Typical Rwandan food includes: rice, beans, chips (fried potatoes/French fries), a little bit of tough beef, and “sauce” (not really sure what’s in it, but it is good over rice and beans)…with bananas and pineapple for dessert      

6:30pm – Sunset.  Journal, e-mail, read (I’m on my fourth book, which is amazing for me)

Anywhere between 8pm-1:00am – Go to sleep (anyone who knows me well knows it is much more likely to be before 10pm!)

Then start all over again the next day!

Actually, this routine is switching up now.  The students took exams last week. That means that they are off through Friday of this week so that the teachers can prepare their reports.  They come back on Friday to get their reports, and then they have about a 3-week holiday before the next term begins.  The school year currently does not run Sept-June like ours does; however, I have heard that it used to and that they may be going back to that system. 

So…for my last 2.5 weeks here, I will spend more of my time at Solace.  I hope to finish putting together a newsletter and brochure for them as well as visit their clinic (just as a visitor; not as a patient!) and at least one of the 56 communities they have around the country.  Tomorrow I will also spend some time with some of the women of the church who will be making the famous paper bead necklaces.  Cool!  This weekend we will visit another church in the north.  And I am interested in visiting one of the other genocide memorials before I depart.  So…I’m sure my time will fill up quickly and go by fast.

Please pray today especially for Theophile and his responsibilities.  He is the headmaster of the primary school, oversees 8 churches in the Kigali area, and has a family of 5 daughters.  In all three of those areas, the needs are SO great and the resources are SO few.  The cool thing though is that when I ask about the needs, he always says that the number one need is for prayer.  :)

God bless,

Jen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
24
2011
0

Butaka photos

 

This is "Butaka" hill.

This is "Butaka" hill.

 

The volcanoes

The volcanoes

 

This one supposedly is the second highest point in Africa (behind Kilimanjaro)

This one supposedly is the second highest point in Africa (behind Kilimanjaro)

 

This volcano in the distance is an active one in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This volcano in the distance is an active one in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
23
2011
0

My accomodations

 

My nicely prepared room at Terence's house.

My nicely prepared room at Terence's house.

 

"Toilet" on the left; "shower" on the right - not ideal when you are sick, but otherwise very clean.

"Toilet" on the left; "shower" on the right - not ideal when you are sick, but otherwise very clean.

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |
Jul
23
2011
0

Butaka

This is the name of the seconday school where as was in the northern province up near Volanoes National Park.  I found out that the school gets its name from a “small hill” nearby, and the word means “soil.”

While my time there was brief (I didn’t have much time in the first place, and then I got sick so came home early), it was good.  I am praising God that the headmaster, Terence (Esron’s brother), and other teachers are saying the couple days of teaching I did really impacted kids.  It was challenging.  I taught biology, so that was nice.  But some of it was at a higher level than I’ve taught for awhile…so I had to dig back in my brain for some information.  :)  But what was the most challenging was not really knowing how detailed to get.  I found that they have learned some terms that I do not teach my students at a similar level; other concepts that I cover, they don’t.  Plus, some terms are just different.  :)

It was also just nice to see the area and experience life there a little…although, they wouldn’t think to let me help prepare meals or clean-up or anything – I was a guest.  Very kind of them!

I wish I had stayed well (Looks like I may have malaria after all.  Don’t worry – the meds are working great!  They have a very good clinic staffed with good nurses near Terence’s house.).  We had planned a girls “football” match one afternoon and some visits to the areas where some of the students come from the next.  Can you believe that some students walk 3 hours EACH WAY to school!  And others left their homes 2-3 hours away by car to live with “strangers” in the area so they can go to the school.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the school itself (maybe I have some from earlier – I’ll have to check).  But here are some other pictures of my time there:

 

Markey in Ruhengeri (on the way north)

Market in Ruhengeri (on the way north)

 

Headmaster Terence in his potato fields

Headmaster Terence in his potato fields

 

The long line of children leading us up to Terence's fields.

The long line of children leading us up to Terence's fields.

 

A closer look at our "guides."

A closer look at our "guides."

 

Closer yet...and the cloud of dust that follows them everywhere.

Closer yet...and the cloud of dust that follows them everywhere.

 

Me, Gary, and Clemance (Terence's family)

Me, Gary, and Clemance (Terence's family)

 I want to post a few more pics, but the computer is being SO slow.  So, I’ll sign off for now.

Thanks for your continued prayers – they are being answered!

Blessings,

Jen

Written by jenblevins in: Blog - 2011 Rwanda Service Trip |

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